Smith Machine Shrug: Your Thorough Tutorial

Smith Machine Shrug is a great isolation exercise. This exercise is a great way to strengthen your back and shoulder muscles, and can easily be added to your current workout routine. In this article, you’ll find detailed instructions on how to perform the Smith Machine Shrug, the benefits it provides, the muscles used, some tips for success, and some common mistakes to avoid. So grab your weights and let’s get started.

Smith Machine Shrug Summary

  • Primary Muscles: Trapezius – Upper
  • Secondary Muscles: None
  • Equipment: Smith Machine
  • Mechanics Type: Isolated
  • Force: Pull
  • Utility: Basic
Graphic image of a fit man performing alternate cable triceps extensions.

Smith Machine Shrug Instructions

  • Stand facing the Smith Machine, feet hip-width apart.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, keeping your elbows straight.
  • Hold for a second at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly lower your shoulders back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat the exercise for desired number of repetitions.

Video Tutorial

Smith Machine Shrugs

Smith Machine Shrug Muscles

Target (Agonist)

  • Trapezius – Upper


  • Levator Scapulae
  • Trapezius – Middle

Dynamic Stabilizers

  • None


  • Erector Spinae

Antagonist Stabilizers

  • None
Image of the skeletal muscular system with the muscles used in the smith shrug exercise highlighted in red and the rest in blue.

Benefits of Smith Machine Shrug

The Smith Machine Shrug is an effective exercise for strengthening the trapezius muscles of the upper back. This exercise allows you to use a heavy weight, which helps to build strength and size in the trapezius muscles. It also allows you to safely isolate the trapezius muscles, as the movement is restricted to just the shoulder joint. Performing this exercise will help you to develop a strong and powerful trapezius muscle, which can improve your posture, help prevent injury, and enhance your overall fitness level.

Tips for Performing Smith Machine Shrug

Using the Smith Machine Shrug correctly and consistently can provide you with great benefits to improve your overall fitness level. The exercise is simple, yet effective in targeting the shoulder muscles. To get the most out of this exercise and maximize the potential benefits, follow these tips below.

  • Ensure your posture is correct: Keep your chest up and shoulders back when performing the exercise. This will ensure that your traps are engaged throughout the motion and help you get the most out of the exercise.
  • Use a full range of motion: As you lift the bar, make sure to bring your shoulders up as far as possible, and then lower them back down slowly and with control. This will help to engage your traps more fully and maximize the benefits of the exercise.
  • Focus on using your traps: As you perform the exercise, focus on squeezing your traps at the top of the movement to really target that muscle group. This will help you get the most out of the exercise and improve your results.

Benefits and Tips Video

How To Make Behind-Back Shrugs Better

Frequent Mistakes To Avoid

It’s important to be aware of the common mistakes associated with using the Smith Machine for shrugs. Though the Smith Machine is a great tool to use for this exercise, it’s important to remember that there are some errors you should avoid in order to get the most out of the exercise. Doing too much weight or going too fast can lead to injury or poor form, and will ultimately prevent you from achieving the full benefits of the exercise.

  • Not keeping your core engaged: When performing Smith Machine Shrugs, it is important to maintain a tight core throughout the entire movement. This will help keep your back in proper alignment and reduce the chance of any injuries.
  • Allowing your shoulders to roll forward: In order to maximize the benefit of the exercise, it is important to ensure that your shoulders remain back and down throughout the entire movement. Rolling your shoulders forward can put unnecessary strain on your neck and back muscles.
  • Using too much weight: It is important to make sure you are using a weight that is appropriate for your current strength level. Using too much weight can cause your form to suffer and increase your risk of injury.

Variations and Complementary Exercises

There are a variety of other exercises that can be used to target the same muscles as the Smith Machine Shrug, which can be useful for those who want to switch up their workout routine. Below is a list of variations, complementary, and alternative exercises that work similar muscles as the Smith Machine Shrug.

Graphic image of Shrugs With Bands.

Shrugs With Bands: Shrugs With Bands is a great complement or alternative to Smith Machine Shrugs. It’s a more dynamic exercise that challenges the body to move through a greater range of motion. Instead of standing in place and pulling the weight up, Shrugs With Bands requires you to move the bands in a controlled manner. This helps to engage more stabilizing muscles, and also works on balance and coordination. Furthermore, you can use different sizes of bands to further increase the challenge of the exercise. All of these benefits make Shrugs With Bands an excellent complement or alternative to Smith Machine Shrugs.

Graphic image of Dumbbell Shrug.

Dumbbell Shrug: Dumbbell shrugs are a great complementary or alternative exercise for the Smith Machine Shrug. This exercise primarily targets the trapezius muscles, which are located at the back of the neck and shoulders. To perform a dumbbell shrug, you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down by your sides. You then lift your shoulders up as high as you can and hold them there for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. The benefit of performing dumbbell shrugs instead of Smith Machine Shrugs is that they allow for more freedom of movement, allowing you to work the muscles more effectively. Additionally, they require less setup and can be done anywhere, making them an ideal exercise for any fitness level.

Graphic image of Cable Shrug.

Cable Shrug: The Cable Shrug is an excellent alternative or complementary exercise to the Smith Machine Shrug. It allows for an increased range of motion, allowing you to get a deeper contraction in the traps. The exercise also allows for greater flexibility in terms of grip and hand position, allowing for a more varied workout. Additionally, it allows for a greater range of motion and can be used to target specific muscle groups more effectively. The Cable Shrug is also great for developing stability and balance, as the weight is not fixed in one position like it is with the Smith Machine Shrug.

Check Out These Top Machine Exercises

Graphic image of Barbell Shrug.

Barbell Shrug: The Barbell Shrug is a great exercise for targeting the trapezius muscles and is an excellent complementary or alternative to the Smith Machine Shrug. The barbell shrug allows for greater range of motion than the Smith Machine Shrug, and allows you to use heavier weights. It also helps to maintain proper posture, as you are forced to keep your back straight throughout the exercise. Additionally, using a barbell instead of a Smith machine allows you to use more stabilizing muscles during the exercise, which can lead to more overall muscle growth.

Graphic image of Barbell Standing Upright Row.

Barbell Standing Upright Row: The Barbell Standing Upright Row is a great complementary or alternative exercise to the Smith Machine Shrug. This exercise works the same muscles as the Smith Machine Shrug, but also engages the core and stabilizers more due to the free-standing nature of the movement. This exercise focuses on the traps, shoulders, and arms, while also working the core and stabilizers in a dynamic manner. It can be done with lighter weights than the Smith Machine Shrug and is a great way to mix up your routine.

Graphic image of Barbell Wide Grip Upright Row.

Barbell Wide Grip Upright Row: The Barbell Wide Grip Upright Row is a great complementary or alternative exercise to the Smith Machine Shrug. This exercise targets the trapezius muscles in the upper back, which are often neglected when performing the Smith Machine Shrug. To perform the exercise, stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your elbows up, lift the barbell up to your chin and then lower back down. This exercise can be performed with lighter weights for higher reps to really target the traps, or heavier weights for lower reps for a more strength-focused workout.

Opposing Complementary Exercises

In order to get the most out of Smith Machine Shrugs, it is important to incorporate exercises that target the opposite muscle groups. This will help ensure that the entire body is balanced and all muscle groups are being worked. Below are several exercises that complement the Smith Machine Shrug by targeting opposing muscle groups.

Graphic image of Chin Up.

Chin Up: Chin Up is a great complementary exercise to Smith Machine Shrug as it works the opposing muscle group. It strengthens the back muscles, particularly the lats, and helps to increase overall upper body strength. Chin Up also increases stability, which can help improve performance in other exercises such as the Smith Machine Shrug. The range of motion of Chin Up helps to target a different set of muscles than the Smith Machine Shrug, providing a well-rounded workout for the entire upper body. By working the opposite muscle group, it helps to prevent imbalances, improving posture and overall strength.

Graphic image of Close Grip Chin Up.

Close Grip Chin Up: The Close Grip Chin Up is a great complement to the Smith Machine Shrug exercise. While the Smith Machine Shrug works the trapezius muscle group, the Close Grip Chin Up works the biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles. It also utilizes more of the core muscles to stabilize the body while performing the movement. This combination of exercises helps to build strength and mass in both the upper back and arms, as well as increase overall body stability.

Graphic image of Dumbbell Straight Arm Pullover.

Dumbbell Straight Arm Pullover: The Dumbbell Straight Arm Pullover is the perfect complement to the Smith Machine Shrug exercise. This exercise works the opposing muscle group of the shoulder, the latissimus dorsi. The pullover helps to stretch and lengthen the lats, which helps to create balance in the shoulder musculature. This helps to reduce the risk of overtraining one side of the shoulder, while also helping to improve overall shoulder strength and stability. By performing both exercises in combination, you can help ensure that your shoulders remain healthy and strong.


So, to conclude, Smith Machine Shrugs are a great exercise for those who want to get fit and work on building their upper body strength. You can make sure you’re doing it correctly by following the instructions provided, keeping in mind the tips, and avoiding the mistakes. And remember, if you’re unsure of anything, it’s always a good idea to consult a fitness professional. Now that you know how to safely and effectively perform this exercise, why not check out our other fitness articles and learn more about getting fit?

References: Wikipedia | |

Pin image for smith shrug post. With an image of a man performing the exercise on Top and a graphic of the exercise on the Bottom.

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